Following are UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Joint Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Fund United Nations General Assembly side event titled “Investing in the SDGs: From Rhetoric to Reality”, today:
I would like to thank the Prime Minister of Barbados – the Honourable Mia Mottley – and the distinguished panel that has joined us today: Carin Jämtin, Director General, Swedish International Development Cooperation; our private sector partners David Rubenstein, Emmanuel Roman and Bill Tai; and my colleague Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), for moderating this event.
COVID has made it abundantly clear that we cannot continue investing in the world as it existed before the pandemic. If COVID‑19 is upending lives and economies across the globe, it is because we have not made the necessary investments in people and planet.
From supply chains to a global recession, investing in the root causes of crises and instability is not only the logical way forward – it is also good business. And addressing root causes means investing in sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offers an opportunity to do just that. COVID‑19 and the imperative to recover better only made it more urgent and relevant.
The 2030 Agenda offers an entry point to build inclusive and sustainable economies through our portfolio of vetted catalytic investments. This is not charity; this is not traditional philanthropy. This is a deal pipeline to challenge you to go beyond your comfort zones – to lean into the ESG (environmental, social and governance) standards your client base and boards of directors demand. To respond to an increasing cohort of youth consumers who no longer wish to see business as usual. There is tremendous opportunity in blended finance. Governments cannot do it alone. They need the support of private investors to invest in social protection and the recovery out of COVID‑19; develop green economies; and more sustainable production and consumption patterns.
Using public resources to mobilize private loan guarantees and investments is the emerging tradecraft. To unblock financing and achieve results at scale, we need: strategic partnerships that can help identify and capture unique opportunities in countries; to define barriers to the effective implementation of these activities ‑ and therefore efforts to remove these barriers; to broaden the policy environments to be more conducive to triple wins (environment, social and economic); selecting appropriate financing options – through vehicles like the Joint Fund.
With the SDG Fund, our aim is to bring together investor excitement around the SDGs and impact investing – with the actual needs of countries that are currently off the radar of asset and portfolio managers. We convene, connect and help target and de‑risk your investments. Value for money, results for people. There is great potential in our partnership.
We will convene and we will perfect our craft as we build our portfolio. You can join us. You can be a change agent – and join us in demonstrating that different forms of capital can be accessed for the SDGs and be progressively aligned with them. You can help unlock these opportunities, even in the most difficult contexts. And in aiming returns for investment, you can also aim to leave a positive footprint in the planet and people’s lives. Success is when we reach the billions of people that we need to reach. Success is when we reach the SDGs. We must not stop until then.
Built and staffed by experts across the entire United Nations system, the Fund provides catalytic grant capital to unlock private capital towards blended financing of SDG investments. We will get tangible results in places like Malawi, where the Fund will host a financing vehicle to provide long‑term equity to small and medium enterprises to grow their business and expand employment. In Rwanda, where a social impact bond will finance the creation of 1,000 new solarized health posts. In Fiji, where a debt-‑for‑relief swap will leverage philanthropic and public resources to mobilize private loan guarantees. Ecotourism, waste management and sustainable fishing revenues from local communities will repay the debt while protecting our ocean.
With your support, we can take it to the next level. From creating green municipal bond markets to issuing blue sukuks, to adapting lending schemes that can fund rural health outposts, we are looking at ways to build more inclusive, resilient and sustainable societies.
The Joint SDG Fund has committed $160 million to reinforce the SDG financing architecture and generate strategic investments. This is a drop in the ocean, we are aware. But – if well designed and targeted – the Fund carries the promise of multiplying, leveraging, catalyzing much higher volumes.
We seek to set out the business case for SDG investments, and grow a “web” of United Nations initiatives aimed at reorienting public and private capital towards the SDGs. The Joint SDG Fund can help unlock opportunities, even in the most difficult contexts.
Imagine a Fund that balances private sector demands for a return with an equal demand for poverty reduction and women’s empowerment. Imagine multiplying revenue across blue and green investments, across sustainable agriculture and fintech for women’s health. I can imagine this and much more. I know our partners around the table today can too. And I look forward to working with you at this pivotal moment for all of us.
Thank you for your clear commitment.